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Windows Manager: Tips for start menu, macro viruses

Windows Manager: Tips for start menu, macro viruses

Reader Paul Haines was irritated that Windows 98 displayed his lengthy Programs list on the Start menu in a single column - with scroll arrows at the bottom to see more items. He wanted his Programs list to be displayed in multiple columns if necessary, and he figured out a Registry change to make it so.

The following procedure is known to work only on Windows 98 with Internet Explorer 5.0 installed. I'm still checking to see if it works on Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000.

1) Click Start, then Run. Type regedit, then click OK.

2) In the Registry Editor, click the plus signs to expand the following keys: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\explorer. Within the explorer folder, click the Advanced folder once to select it.

3) Right-click an unoccupied area in the right pane. Click New, then Text Value.

4) In the name box that appears, type StartMenuScrollPrograms (all one word), then press Enter.

5) Right-click the name you just created, then click Modify. In the Value Data box, type false, then click OK.

6) Click Registry, Exit to close the Registry Editor.

It should not be necessary to restart Windows. When you click Start and then Programs, your menu should show multiple columns instead of a single column with scroll arrows (assuming you have a long Programs list).

Haines discovered this Registry key by using RegMon, a handy free program that monitors calls to the Registry in real time. RegMon is available for Windows NT and Windows 95/98 at www.sysinternals.com. At that site, click Utilities, then scroll down to RegMon.

If you somehow mess up in RegEdit, you will be relieved to know that Win98 automatically saves five backups of the Registry. You can go back to a previous working Registry by restarting your PC, holding down the Ctrl key, choosing Command Prompt Only, then typing scanreg/restore. You can restore the most recent backup or an earlier one.

I have previously mentioned that some people send each other Microsoft Word documents saved as RTF, or Rich Text Format, files to reduce the risk of circulating macro viruses. Although files saved as RTF do not contain macros, Rick Kaye notes, "It is simple to save a file in Word's native .doc format and then change its extension to .rtf. Word will load it, macros and all."

Also, Tom Simondi points out, an RTF file can contain "an infected Excel worksheet or even an infected .exe file". If you run the embedded component, a virus may be triggered.

Portable Document Formats

Simondi recommends using Portable Document Formats (PDFs) to send attached documents. PDFs can't have macros or viruses but can be digitally signed to verify the sender's identity.

Viewing PDFs, of course, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html. To create PDFs, Adobe offers its Acrobat program, but you can get the free Aladdin Ghostscript application at www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/index.html.

I have heard from readers who delete and reinstall Windows every six months. They then reinstall any applications that need certain entries in the Registry. They say this makes Windows faster and more reliable.

I'm sure that's true, but the procedure seems excessive to me. What is really going on? Aren't there less extreme steps that can be taken to delete and restore whatever it is about Windows that is clogging up?


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